Wednesday, December 30, 2009


The pedometer
hides on the fat man’s belt loop.
How can he read it?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


The epitaph read:
He died of encouragement,
in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Wind

The wind bent the reed.
Did the reed wish to be bent?
The wind does not care.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Amercian Dream

American dream:
used to be hard work. Not now.
Now it’s “Get rich quick.”

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


There is no such thing
as an original thought.
So copy someone.

Friday, November 27, 2009

ELR Fan Mail #3

I hesitate to publish this letter, but I’m afraid it’s the only way to make sure the sender gets the message. Savvy readers will recognize the party in question, a certain Society for Haiku Preservation in the English Language.

Dear Esoteric Literary Reference,

We at the Society for Haiku Preservation in the English Language loved your letter of response! We were delighted that you took time to respond, but more delighted still that you did so entirely in haiku format. Just look at some of these gems:

“In fact, we mostly
like haikus because they’re short-
er than most other

things. Haiku Wednes-
days would be Screenplay Wednes-
days if screenplays were

only three lines long.
So thanks for the offer, but
Esoteric Lit-“

And it goes on from there! Every word of your letter was a haiku, and I’m sure there were layers of meaning we have thus far only begun to uncover. Brilliant! Incorrectly referring to haiku in the plural as “haikus” was likewise brilliant. Pure tongue-in-cheek hilarity.

We also agree with your assertion about the Keats/Yeats pronunciation.

Welcome to the Society,
The Society for Haiku Preservation in the English Language


Are you serious? First of all, I told you I did NOT want to join your weird club. So take me off of your mailing lists. As I’ve told you repeatedly via email, your newsletters are dry and lacking in 21st Century relevance. Plus, whoever draws those cartoons just isn’t funny. Deal with it.

It astounds me that I have to be the one to tell you this, but those “haiku” of mine that I posted were not haiku at all. They weren’t even poetry. You just took my letter and divided it into chunks of syllables. Poetry is more than just formatting. How could you not know that?

And that Keats/Yates thing was a joke. I was making fun of you.

Are you happy that I had to publicly shame you? I’m not proud of this post. Seriously, I don’t want to join your stupid club. Tell Nancy to stop calling and asking who my plus-one will be for your annual gala. I’m not going because I’m not a member.

Not joking,
Esoteric Literary Reference Letter Reply Dept.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


"Not the crude eagle!"
cried Franklin at the meeting.
"How 'bout the turkey?"

Monday, November 23, 2009

ELR Fan Mail #2

Today’s letter comes from the Society for Haiku Preservation in the English Language, a prestigious yet apparently misguided poetry group. Read on:

Dear Esoteric Literary Reference,

Congratulations! We at the Society for Haiku Preservation in the English Language (SHPEL) have discovered your wonderful haiku weblog and want to extend to you an offer for membership in our group.

The aim of the Society is to keep the oft-maligned art of haiku in the forefront of Anglophone Letters. In today’s world of instant messages and electronic or “e” mail, language in general and poetry specifically have been relegated to a largely utilitarian function. Gone are the glory days when words were words for words’ sake. Ask a child of today what a poem is and he’s less likely to know the answer than to tilt his head like a confused dog...provided he could tear his attention away from his Video-Game Box.

Your weblog exemplifies our goals. It seems to be devoted entirely to haiku. True, our committee has noted that on occasion you post a prose entry or two, but by and large you limit your posts to haiku. It’s practically all you post. It is because of your dedication to post only haiku that we would love to count the name Steve Theiss among our members’ ranks.

Awaiting your favorable response,
The Society for Haiku Preservation in the English Language


Look, it’s nice of you to offer me membership in your club or whatever, but I think you got the wrong idea. We at Esoteric Literary Reference (and by “we” I do mean “I”) don’t try to post only haikus. We try to post other stuff. Like this letter, for instance.

In fact, we mostly like haikus because they’re shorter than most other things. Haiku Wednesdays would be Screenplay Wednesdays if screenplays were only three lines long.

So thanks for the offer, but Esoteric Literary Reference has to politely decline. We’re sure you’re a nice club and maybe you even have fun parties. Yeah. A bunch of nerdy poets standing around drinking deliberately obscure drinks (“Actually, Alan, this sidecar would have been better if they'd mixed it with Grand Marnier instead of Cointreau...”) and talking about how it's "genius" that Keats isn’t pronounced like Yeats. I bet that’s a blast.

Happy nerding,
Esoteric Literary Reference Letter Reply Dept.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Perhaps pilfered poems
should send suspicious signals
about an author.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Does the ballpoint pen
detest the computer age?
Microchip envy.

Friday, November 6, 2009

You Know, As In Brigitte Bardot. But not.

I started going to a weekly improv contest with a couple of guys from my current class. Basically you show up with a three-person team and get to perform for five minutes. After each team has performed, the audience votes. The winner gets bragging rights.

And I’m happy to tell you, dear reader, that we currently retain those rights. At least until next week. We were pleased/surprised to hear the results, especially considering our last scene consisted of the three of us violently beating a hamburger for absolutely no reason.

Ah, improv. Even when it’s stupid it’s fun. Here’s hoping next week will be good. Maybe we can verbally assault a slice of pizza or something.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pen vs. Pencil

Pen versus pencil.
One has ink, one has graphite.
But each has a point.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Seriously, Tina Fey, I (Really, Truly, Without Caveat) Think You’re Funny

The other night I called our apartment to tell Lindsay I would be home later than expected. She didn’t pick up, so I left a message. When I got home, I played it back, intending to delete it. And that’s when I heard that frightening sound. Some dork blabbering on in what could generously be called a high tenor (and less generously called a warbling alto), saying in a hundred words what should have taken seven (“I will be home late. Love you.”)

If you're playing along at home, you'll realize that dork was me.

You’d think I’d be used to the sound of my own voice by now. It’s not like every waking moment of my life has been recorded (like the kids these days - how great would it be to have a million hours of video of yourself growing up? Don’t scoff; you, dear reader, are just as latently narcissistic as the rest of us), but the succession of audio/visual representation of me has been regular enough to become commonplace if not ubiquitous. Still every time I ask, “Do I really sound like that?”

This weekend I had to ask that question in another context; reading my own voice. And yes, I certainly said that stuff. Only it didn’t sound that way in my head. It sounded smart (one), poignant (two), and insightful (aaaand strike three).

When I read it now, it looks like I think Tina Fey is unworthy as an acting role model. This is not what I think. She's great. What my stupid warbling alto voice was trying to say was that I don't have acting role models because I'm a writer. Why would a writer have an acting role model? Do lawyers have doctors as role models? Do disc jockeys pattern their careers after airline pilots'? (Actually, that would explain why yesterday the host on NPR instructed me not to get out of my seat until the fasten seatbelt sign had been turned off. But I digress.)

Maybe you don’t ever get used to hearing your words quoted back to you, whether electronically or through the filter of another person’s mind. To quote the poet Robbie Burns:

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!

And that's probably not how it sounded in his head, either.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Foreign Food Roundup (3 of 3): McAdventures

Vincent Vega wasn’t just a-whistling Dixie when he expounded upon the virtues of a trip to another country’s McDonald's. But sometimes those little differences at De Gouden Bogen take a back seat to the bigger ones.

I’ll start little and work my way up.


That big fella in the middle there is the NYCrispy, native to Spain. The crispy part comes from fried onion bits in the sandwich, fried onion specks on the bun, fried bacon strips in the sandwich, and tiny fried bacon cubes on the bun. What does the NYCrispy have to do with New York? I have no idea. But it doesn’t matter. Any time you can find a way to double-bacon your sandwich, you get a pass on what you name it. It could have been called the NYCrystalmeth for all I cared.


This is a McFarm. Nestled snugly on a bed of soft bun and under a blanket of lettuce, tomato, onion, and cheese was a delicious patty of...meat. Because I don’t speak Greek (we found this edible mystery in Athens), I don’t know if what I ate was pig, lamb, goat, sheep, cow, chicken, or some unholy combination thereof. But anything goes well with fries (how are McDonald's fries so consistent everywhere?) and Coke, and if I could speak Greek I’d only have asked about the animal out of curiosity. It did what all McDonald's food is supposed to do: fill you with empty sustenance and a mild sense of regret.


Forget retail marijuana and storefront prostitution. What Amsterdam should really start regulating is these crazy deep fried balls. What are they filled with? Sausage and gravy? Cheese and mushrooms? Some sort of snail? No one knows! Actually, I'm sure many people know what's in them. It's not hard to learn. All you have to do is speak or read Dutch. Which I don't. Sigh. That’s what I get for growing up in a giant country where you only need to speak one language.


Adios, amigos!


The midnight PATH train
is full of sleeping people.
And some are standing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Artist

The artist can say
what most men would not admit
(or do not notice).

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Foreign Food Roundup (2 of 3): Pulpo

We ordered this to be adventurous. Sort of like a dare. We didn’t expect it to be good. Grilled, the outside is like crispy chicken skin. The inside is firm, kind of like swordfish. I can't believe we ate the whole thing.

Next: McFarm and the NYCrispy

Friday, October 16, 2009

Haiku Wednesday, Friday Edition

Whoops. I neglected
to post a haiku on time.
Will you forgive me?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Foreign Food Roundup (1 of 3): Soft Drinks

Judging from my blog entries, it might seem like all I ate in Europe was potato chips and candy bars. And not very often, at that. Not true, friends. In fact I ate many other things. I’ll share a few highlights, for those of you who are into that sort of thing. Today we’ll have a look at all the different times I enjoyed Coca-Cola Classic (which is the easiest thing to order -- everyone everywhere calls it Coke). Also I'll throw in some non-Coke soft drinks for good measure.


On a Maltese bus:

On a Maltese beach:

Spanish soft drink (with the famous ham chips):

Tunisian Coca-Cola and Tunisian apple soft drink:

Next: pulpo.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


October has come
and with it chilled autumn air
and longing for youth.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

An Ant

If I were an ant
I would fight other insects
to prove I was tough.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

La Coruna, Spain -- Potato chips

Frito Lay strikes again. The illustration on the front of the bag was
a leg of pig. The Spanish word was jamon. That's ham, baby. And
that's what the chips tasted like.

Sent from my mobile device

Copenhagen -- Candy bar

They call it Yankie. I don't know if the name is supposed to refer to
Americans (and they spelled it wrong) or if it means something in
Danish (and they spelled it right).

It's basically a Milky Way. Caramel and nougat covered in milk
chocolate. Good stuff.

Sent from my mobile device

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hard Work

Hard work will pay off.
Hard work, a sound investor,
and one human soul.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rich and Poor

What’s the difference
between a rich and poor man?
Their money, stupid.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Paris Charles-de-Gaulle Airport --Potato Chips

Q: What can make foreign junk food even more appealing than it already is?

A: When it's an unknown snack from a known (often American) company.

It's like snacking in Bizzaro World. Familiar, yet something's just
a little off. Which doesn't mean the snack isn't good. Right now I'm
eating Lay's brand potato chips. The flavor? Bolognaise. There's a
picture of a tomato on the bag. I guess it's supposed to be like a
pasta sauce? Tastes like a cross between BBQ and Sour Cream & Onion.
I'm a fan.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wait, Cat

The cat eyed the bird.
All it had to do was wait
until Master left.

Diamonds and Other Valuables

Diamonds are generally expensive. Also they’re the de facto official ring of marriage engagements (at least in America). It’s a good niche to have. Almost half the people in the U.S. get married, and many of them do it more than once. But why diamonds?

In my wholly unscientific process of guessing and armchair researching, I have arrived at two main reasons. First, compared to other rocks, diamonds are pretty rare. Second, people want them. A lot of people want them. (Because the diamonds look pretty and/or they have practical uses. Like for cat burglars to cut perfectly round holes in museum windows.) And these people will give a lot of money to other people in exchange for diamonds.

I doubt we’d care so much about diamonds if they were as common as granite or sandstone. If the gravel on the road to Grandma’s house were made of thousands of little diamonds, would you want to display one of them on your finger?

No, you would not. If say you would, you’re either a liar or a jerk or perhaps a practitioner of surrealist art. (All immediate grounds for ignoring.)

I have found something else that is both rare and in high demand. But it’s only rare in certain places. In other places, it’s quite ubiquitous.

Foreign candy.

Also foreign soft drinks.

I’m a big fan. I suspect I only like foreign candy and soft drinks because to me they are rare. Now, I don’t eat much candy at home. But something about sipping from a glass bottle of Coke in Italy or chewing on some crazy chili-strawberry gummi straw in Mexico (What?! It’s sweet and spicy?!) really gets me going. It’s a rare occurrence for me, so I value it more than I would if I could buy this junk Stateside. (In which case I’d probably never touch it. Unless I were some sort of surrealist.)

For the second half of September, I’ll be in Europe. But don’t worry. ELR will not go dark. I intend to post highlights of my two-week foray into basse cuisine. I’ll give the location and what I eat or drink. Keep an eye out for my selections at your local store. But if you find any of them, don’t tell me. If I know that a treat is easily obtained in my own country, I’ll stop sampling it abroad. Don’t ruin it for me.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

E String

Montgomery paused.
If he played just one more chord
the E string would snap.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

ELR Fan Mail #1

Well, kids, it’s time once again to take pen in hand and head over to the ELR mailbag to answer some fan mail. We regret that due to volume we can’t respond to every letter that finds its way to the blog, but we try to get to as much of it as we can. Our first letter comes from little Jenny Mason in Council Bluffs, IA. Jenny writes:

Dear Esoteric Literary Reference,

Are you the same Steve Theiss who took my favorite toy car when your family came over to my house for dinner in 1986? I say took but I mean stole. You stole it. I didn’t even want you to play with it. When you asked if you could, I said no and then when I got back from the bathroom your family was gone and the car was nowhere to be seen. Then the next day I noticed it was missing. I thought I’d never see it again, but then I read your stupid no-topic blog when I was simultaneously Googling the words “haiku” and “Wednesday” for no reason.

You are a jerk. Give me back my toy car. It’s the only thing that reminds me of my childhood and the relative innocence of my life back then. Before all the divorces.

In Hatred of Your Steal-y Face,
Jenny Mason
Council Bluffs, IA

P.S. - I hope you got rug burns all over your legs when you played with my favorite toy on the floor. You thief.

Dear Jenny,

Thanks for the letter. It’s always good to hear from a fan.

In answer to your question, no, of course I am not the same Steve Theiss who “stole” your toy car. In fact, from the way you describe it in your letter, it sounds more like this other Steve Theiss just borrowed the white toy car. Seems to me like you practically gave it to him.

Jenny, you can’t play the part of the generous friend and then get upset when people take advantage of your hospitality. (Although your letter hints that life has taught you a few lessons since then -- good for you!) Plus, if it really was your "favorite toy car", then why did you let the blue flame decals on the sides get all peely? Don’t they have super glue in Council Bluffs?

Anyway, we at Esoteric Literary Reference hope you find your long-lost toy, or at least find something to fill the emotional void with. We suggest Chunky Monkey ice cream. No matter how much you eat, you’ll never be as chunky as that monkey!

Esoteric Literary Reference Letter Reply Dept.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Name Withheld

Lindsay returned to her hotel room in Spencer, Iowa, to find this note:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Two dogs

Two dogs fought fiercely
over their dead master’s bones.
Each wanted the skull.

Monday, August 24, 2009

That Accidental Feeling

It’s right in the pit of my gut. That’s where it starts, anyway. A warm, frantic, emphatic something. Then, really fast, it spreads out to the rest of my body. My heart speeds up, my focus sharpens, and sweat finds its way out of what has to be every pore on my skin. So far I’ve found only two things that can cause this wonderful, horrible feeling. Getting in a car accident (or almost getting into a car accident) and getting pulled over by an officer of the law (or almost getting pulled over).

“Ohboyohboyohboy, I almost hit that semi.” Or, “Ohnoohnoohno, that cop’s lights just popped on and he pulled out. Is he after me? How fast am I going? I’m not going that fast. Other people were passing me. Ohno. Yep. He’s right behind me. I’d better pull - phew. He’s going after someone up there. Yeah, I knew I was okay. Other people were passing me.” And it’s right there, that magnificent natural high found almost exclusively in the face of vehicular danger. I suppose it’s adrenaline, and the feeling is some cross between or combination of fear and excitement.

I made the mistake of telling Lindsay I liked it.

This does not mean, as I had to repeatedly assure her, that I want to total our car. Nor does it indicate that I like getting speeding tickets (I kicked that habit back in college). It doesn’t even mean that I would seek out the feeling. Just that when it happens, I like to enjoy it. To realize that it’s rare and should be savored as an unsought but delightful experience, like when you happen to witness a dog running headlong into a screen door he doesn’t think is there.

But I’m pretty sure Lindsay gets the feeling now. The other day some moron (this is the technical term for anyone piloting a car you are not in) cut across several lanes of traffic at a tool booth plaza, right in front of Lindsay. Lindsay slammed on her brakes. There was a quickening of heart rate. Sharpened focus. And sweat from pores. (But don’t worry; no injuries.)

And you know what? I’m not sure Lindsay disliked the feeling...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Haiku Wednesday

In the craft fair tent
a grey racing dog squatted.
It did not know shame.

Ten Minute Story - Suggestion: Fruit Hammock

The first thing that Mike noticed when he entered the house was the smell. It was dark even though it was early afternoon (because the blinds were drawn), so he couldn’t see exactly what was causing the stench.

He found an unopened can of motor oil on the floor and slid it over to prop open the door. Maybe air the place out a little. Then he moved into the living room.

“Mr. Samuelson,” Mike called out. The heavy summer air seemed to grab his words the minute he let them loose, dragging them down to the floor before they could make it out of the room. So he called louder. “Mr. Samuelson!”

There was a rustling from somewhere in the back of the house, followed by a sort of grunt. Mike knew this was coming from Mr. Samuelson’s kitchen, but he had expected to find the old man in the living room or maybe in the backyard doing his daily gardening. But not in the kitchen. He kept a strict eating regimen and this was much too late for lunch.

Mike shuffled from the living room toward the kitchen, making sure he made a lot of noise. He didn’t want to reach the kitchen and frighten his handball partner. It would be hard to win today’s tournament with a teammate who just died from cardiac arrest.

When Mike entered the kitchen he immediately knew where the smell was coming from. A box full of peaches rested on the floor next to the ancient refrigerator. Fruit flies hovered around it. And there was Mr. Samuelson, already dressed in his old man shorts and sweatbands, stretching. His shirt was stained with peach juice.

“Mikey! Fancy a peach?”

Mike just shook his head.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

To Get Started All I Need Is a Suggestion...

I recently started studying long-form improv. It’s different than what you might have seen on a certain improv TV show hosted by Drew Carey (and/or the British show that spawned it). Instead of a series of short “games”, long-form starts with only one audience suggestion. Performers use whatever the suggestion makes them think of to start scenes, then they build them into a half-hour show. The result is fun to perform and fun to watch.

But you can’t read it. So I’d like to try an experiment. Starting from an audience suggestion, I will write a short story. I’ll start the instant I read the suggestion and write for a set period of time. Probably five minutes. Maybe ten. Then I’ll post the result unedited. (Except for typos.)

“But, Steve,” you say, “where will you get the suggestion? There’s no audience.” Ah, but there is, friend. If you’re reading this, it’s you. So leave a suggestion in the comments. It should be either one word (“Expressionism!”) or a short phrase (“Puerto Rican Day Parade!”) It can be anything. I’ll use the first one posted. (So if you see that someone posted one already, save yours for next time.) I’ll write a story around whatever it makes me think of.

Comment away, loyal readers!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dream Hair

My brother Paul had a policy regarding his oldest child Gerhardt’s hair. Maybe he still does. If so, this policy probably extends to his youngest kid, Heinrich. The policy is something like this:

Paul’s head is as smooth as the roof of a freshly waxed VW Bug;
Baldness has afflicted him since about eighth grade [as it has his twin, Phil, but I’ll leave him alone for now];
Paul thinks it likely that his sons will suffer the same tragic hairless fate;

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that no son of Paul’s shall be made to shear his head hair until he has reached an age where he can in sound mind request such a shearing.

Paul stuck to this for a while with Gerhardt, but eventually the boy’s mane started getting trims. Whether these cuts began of Gerhardt's own volition or due to the fact that he kept smacking into walls and low tables because he couldn’t see through his thick blond blindfold, I’m not sure. All I do know is that policy or no policy, both Gerhardt and Heinrich have longer-than-average hair. And I'm pretty sure they know it.

Last night I dreamt that I was meeting Paul and his kids at a motel. When I arrived they were already there. They found me in the parking lot. I hugged Paul, then Gerhardt, largely without incident. Then I bent to pick up Heinrich. He’s still little. Less than two years old. When I lifted him, he said to me very clearly,

“Just don’t touch the hair. It’s gorgeous.”

Paul has created a monster. At least in my dreams.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Haiku Wednesday

The common pigeon
is as dirty as a rat.
But he doesn’t hide.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Suits Me

The second floor of the Columbus Circle mall doubles as a gallery space. I’m not sure if anyone ever buys the sculptures or photos or paintings under or behind the sturdy plastic cases. I do know that whenever I’m there (usually after plodding behind Lindsay as she peruses the inventory at J. Crew) I at least glance at what’s being displayed.

Yesterday I spotted a blown-up picture of Frank Sinatra making his way down a boardwalk. Surrounding him are several people we in the post-HBO world would recognize as his entourage. But what first caught the eye (after Sinatra) was the man walking next to him. He was dressed in identical clothing. Seersucker suit, leather shoes, shirt, tie. Even his hair was the same. Turns out this was Sinatra’s stunt double on whatever movie he was shooting at the time (he looked a little pudgy but only sort of old; I’m guessing late 1960s).

But even more interesting than the two dressed-alike men were the other people on the boardwalk. They wore swimsuits, mostly, with a few shorts or shirts thrown in here and there. And they were all staring at Sinatra. Or the double. Hard to tell exactly. So I started to wonder: were they staring because this was a major movie star? (That’s the chief attribute of a movie star, by the way. Forget acting. Stars are stars because people want to look at them. They’re just so watchable.) Celebrity seems like the most obvious reason. I have a competing theory, though. If you’ll allow:

Our building has a common outdoor area with, among other things, grills and a swimming pool. We have to reserve a grill in order to use one. On weekends, the building guy in charge of these reservations sits at the pool with the lifeguards. So if one wanted to reserve a grill for use on, say, a Sunday evening, and it was already, say, Sunday afternoon, one would have to go to the pool area and ask the aforementioned guy.

So I did this. I walked into the pool area and strode confidently toward the lifeguards and the building guy. I had to walk around the pool, past sunbathers and swimmers wearing swimsuits, mostly, with a few shorts or shirts thrown in here and there. As I passed them I noticed something: they were all staring at me. After a second I knew why. I was wearing a suit.

It was all quite simple. See, since it was Sunday, we had just come home from church. I wanted to get the grill reserved as soon as possible, so instead of going upstairs and changing first, I stopped at the pool on my way up to our apartment. That I happened to be wearing a suit had nothing to do with the pool or the grill. It just worked out that way.

That’s not what it looked like to everyone else, though. They saw a man in a suit. They saw a man on a mission. They saw a shirt with buttons all the way down, plus full-length pants, plus shoes, plus a bona fide jacket over it all. Plus (Italian street vendor knock-off) Ray-Bans as the cherry on top.

When I reached the lifeguards and the building guy, their conversation ground to a halt. Their heads snapped up, faces expectant. I could have said anything.

“I’d like to reserve a grill. 5pm work?”

Of course 5pm worked. I was wearing power. It’s true. Suits give anyone an air of purpose, an aura of ambition. Were those 1960s boardwalk people staring at Frank and his double because they were movie stars? Probably. But even money says it had something to do with those seersuckers.

Friday, August 7, 2009

I Am Not a Car

Most of the major metropolitan areas on the North American continent are driving communities. Places where most people must drive a car or car-esque vehicle several times in the course of their daily routines. New York City is not one of these places. You can live here* and without much effort never have to pilot a car again. Cabs, buses, subways, and commuter trains make it unnecessary to have a car in every garage. And that’s assuming you have a garage. Which you probably don’t.

But I straddle the two worlds. My wife Lindsay drives to work farther into the Garden State. I work at home or take public transportation under a large river and into the former New Amsterdam. On weekends, though, we have the freedom to choose the PATH train (a subway that runs between Jersey and Manhattan) or our car. And if we go somewhere in our car, I drive.

Switching back and forth can be taxing. Sometimes, after a weekend of driving, a Monday morning walk along a sidewalk with the flow of traffic (yep, walking traffic; city sidewalks are pedestrian highways - believe it) will find my reflexes still thinking I’m behind the wheel. When I want to look behind me, I don’t turn around. Instead I glance a little to the right and a bit upward to the spot where my misguided brain thinks there will be a rearview mirror. I am genuinely perplexed when my eyes find at best blank space and at worst a suspicious passerby. I’ve also caught myself dropping my gaze to a person’s hindquarters to see what State this tourist is from and why in the Samuel J. Hill she’s walking so freaking slowly and zigzagging (is she doing it on purpose?) back and forth when I’m clearly trying to pass her because I’m already seven and a half minutes late to work?!

But of course there is no license plate on her bumper, because she is not a car. She is a person. A slow, clueless person. Probably from Jersey.

*Yes, that’s right. I claim to live in NYC. Maybe you’re calling foul, rightly pointing out that my address clearly states Jersey City, New Jersey. Seriously, you insist, “Jersey” is in there twice. Yes, it is. But we live four blocks from the Hudson River. We’re at least five times closer to Manhattan than we were when we lived in Queens. It’s practically another borough and I’m counting it. While we’re on the subject, where do you live, gentle reader? Chicago? St. Louis? Los Angeles? Or is it Wheaton, Columbia, IL, or Pasadena? That’s what I thought.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

About a Blog

I’m hesitant to write this post because it’s about this blog. That sort of bores me. Blogging about a blog seems too self-referential, like I’m breaking the Internet’s fourth wall, winking through the screen. Breaking the fourth wall is easy and hacky, and unless you’re the Mel Brooks of the Internet it probably won’t work for very long. Since I'm not even the Mel Tormé of the Internet, I’ll try to keep posts like these to a minimum.

[Time for a lengthy aside. I hate saying or writing “the Internet”. First, why is capitalization standard? I can’t say “internet”? Also its name has been changing ever since Former Vice President Captain Planet invented it. The Web. The Net. The Internet. Cyberspace. Can we just pick one? I suppose my fear is that I’ll look foolish and naïve to future generations, the way I chuckle at early twentieth century newspaper clippings that reference those magnificent Automobiles and Aeroplanes. And let's not forget that early nineties Sandra Bullock smash, THE NET. (That’s right. You shuddered. Just a little.) Some get around this by wedging tongue in cheek and typing “interweb” or “Internets”, but that smacks of adolescent exclusivity. I’m not going to invent a new term just to avoid being thought primitive by people I’ll never meet. Of course, this is assuming that people in the future will continue to attain literacy. So maybe I’m worrying about nothing. I mean, have you played video games? Seriously? Any of them?]

My concern about this little backwoods corner of the www is that I haven’t given it a cohesive theme. This means I don’t really know my audience. Not knowing your audience in writing is bad. The audience is the most important part of any story. Without an audience a story - or in this case a blog - doesn’t know what to do.

But I think I’ve found a solution. When I’m working on a screenplay or manuscript or article or poem, I don’t have the intended audience in front of me so I can ask them what works and what doesn't. I do have a substitute, though. Someone who will laugh if something is funny or lean forward if something is compelling or yawn if something is boring.

Wait for it...

It’s me. I’m the audience. The first one, anyway. The primary gatekeeper. The initial arbiter of all things creative. So I’m going to post things that I find interesting. That’s the de facto theme of this place. I’m my own audience. This way I guarantee that at least one reader will be satisfied.

So stick around and see if me as an audience matches you as an audience. Feel free to laugh, lean forward, or yawn as you see fit.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Haiku Wednesday, Inaugural Edition

If Wednesday were an age, it would be like 35. Not old but not really young, either. Just sort of existing.

To make Wednesday a little more interesting, I hereby institute Haiku Wednesdays. Each Haiku Wednesday will find me posting one of my haikus. I love the form because it's short and sweet and a great way to learn lean, succinct description.

Hopefully this will give Wednesday enough confidence to start claiming it's only 29. And maybe we'll even believe it.


Under the table,
Frank loosened his belt a notch.
The pie had been rich.